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Wednesday, 12 November 2008

From Today's Papers - 12 Nov



Arunachal boundary illegal, fumes China

Beijing, November 11
China on Tuesday angrily rejected India's assertion that Arunachal Pradesh is its integral part, insisting that Beijing never recognised the "illegal" McMahon Line and that the status of the border state was "never officially demarcated".

Deeply regretting external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee's statement that Arunachal Pradesh was part of India, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said New Delhi had not taken into account the "historical facts".

"We deeply regret the Indian side's remarks, that take no regard of the historical facts," Qin said when asked to comment on Mukherjee's comments on Sunday in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh that the state was an integral part of India and that China was "aware" of it.

"China and India have never officially settled demarcation of borders, and China's stance on the eastern section of China-India borders is consistent and clear-cut," Qin said at a regular bi-weekly news briefing.

"The current Chinese government, as well as previous ones, has never recognised the illegal "McMahon Line," the official Xinhua news agency quoted Qin as saying.

"India knows this," Qin said, referring to the McMahon Line, the demarcation line drawn on map referred to the Shimla Convention in 1914. Although China disputes its legal status, the McMahon Line is currently the effective boundary between China and India.

Mukherjee had also said that "China is often making claims on Arunachal Pradesh, but Arunachal Pradesh has a special place in our heart."

"People of Arunachal Pradesh regularly elect two representatives to the Lok Sabha and there is an elected state assembly carrying out the responsibility of administration like any of other 27 states. The question of parting company of Arunachal or any of its part does not arise," he had said.

As for the pending boundary issue between China and India, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said that China is willing to find a solution, which is "fair, reasonable and acceptable" to the two sides, through peaceful and friendly negotiation in the spirit of mutual understanding and adjustment.

Mukherjee's rejection of the Chinese claim on Arunachal Pradesh follows recent declaration of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a visit to the state that Arunachal was 'our land of rising sun'.

This is the second time within a week that Beijing has reacted sharply to Mukherjee's remarks on China.

On November 7, China had rejected an apparent "China threat' remark made by him during a speech.

India says China is illegally occupying 43,180 sq km of Jammu and Kashmir including 5,180 sq km illegally ceded to Beijing by Islamabad under the Sino-Pakistan boundary agreement in 1963. On the other hand, China accuses India of possessing some 90,000 sq km of Chinese territory, mostly in Arunachal Pradesh. — PTI

Army ban on Purohit

New Delhi, November 11
With the Maharashtra police arresting Lt Col Shrikant Purohit in the Malegaon blast case, the Army has placed him under a discipline-vigilance ban that would ensure he gets no promotions or new postings and also relieved him of current responsibilities.

The ban, a routine order which came the day the Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) took him into custody for questioning, would be enforced till the time the probe is completed and a report, either indicting Purohit or exonerating him in the case, is submitted, Army sources said here today.

Till the time a competent court of law acquits him in the case, the ban would continue, but Purohit would be entitled to his emoluments and also retain official accommodation till then.

Purohit, a military intelligence officer, was last studying a couple of foreign languages in the Army Education Corps school at Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh, from where he was sent into ATS custody by the Army for questioning with regard to his alleged role in the September 29 Malegaon blasts that claimed about half-a-dozen Muslim lives. Meanwhile, as announced by defence minister A.K. Antony recently, the Army also began an internal scrutiny of Purohit's service to determine if the record matched with unsolved incidents that may come to light and if he misused his military postings to help the main accused in the Malegaon case, sources said.

The service record was being checked to see if any arms, ammunition or explosives went missing or were stolen at a unit when he was posted there, sources added. Also, the army was questioning his colleagues, who served alongside him at different postings as a Liaison Unit (LU) officer, including at Nashik.

In particular, the army was interested in finding out when and where Purohit came in contact with one of the accused retired Major Ramesh Upadhyaya, in the case, the sources said. The army, in a departure from tradition, was also scrutinising Purohit's leave schedules during his service and has shared the leave records with the ATS, the sources added. — PTI

Navy foils pirate attack
Cargo vessel belonged to Mumbai-based GE Shipping
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 11
Within weeks of the Indian government sending out its naval warship to patrol the Gulf of Aden, that leads to the busy Suez Canal sea-trading route, the Indian Navy's marine commandos today thwarted an attempt by pirates to take over an Indian merchant vessel.

This is the first rescue since India decided to send its Navy on October 16. The Navy was deployed after pirates took over MV Stolt Valor, another merchant ship with a crew of 18 Indians on board. The sailors are yet to be rescued.

In today's operations, the merchant ship, MV Jag Arnav, had crossed the Suez Canal and was eastward bound when it was surrounded by the pirates. The captain of the 38,265-tonne bulk carrier caught the attention of INS Tabar, a "Talwar class" frigate that was on patrol duty in the Gulf of Aden.

An armed helicopter stationed on the Indian naval ship was sent to intervene. The commandos attacked the pirates and repulsed them,the Naval authorities here said. Since the policy is not of hot-pursuit, the pirate ship was not chased. The Naval spokesperson did not reveal the type of weapons used by the commandos. The pirates came on speed boats armed with automatic weapons.

The attack took place around 10.30 am (IST) and it was 60 nautical miles of Aden.

The Naval ship was about 25 nautical miles away from the place of the pirate attack and the use of chopper was necessitated. After the commandos did the job, the INS Tabar closed in on the merchant vessel and escorted it to safety.

The merchant vessel is owned by Mumbai-based Great Eastern Shipping Company. Since it was an Indian registered ship, rescuing it was within the Navy's mandate. More than 60 per cent of Indian trade is through the Suez Canal.

Within hours of the rescue, Naval chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said: "Indian Naval ships operating in piracy-infected areas are always in a high-state of alert and have the capability to intervene with air or ship borne weapons. Their mandate is to ensure that the safety of our sovereign assets is maintained".

Already, India has identified that a large number of sea pirates were operating from the ports of Somalia off the north-east African coast.

The Navy patrolling was being carried out in coordination with the shipping ministry and is intended to instill confidence in the large sea-faring community from India.

Meanwhile, the Japanese shipping company that owns MV Stolt Valor has been holding negotiations with the pirates to secure the sailors' release, even as there were demands from their family members that the Indian government should intervene and get them released.

Indian Navy Warship Foils Hijack Attempt off Aden

Mumbai
Responding swiftly to a distress call from an Indian merchant ship in the Gulf of Aden that was facing a pirate attack, an Indian Navy warship patrolling in the area took effective countermeasures to repulse the assault, the defence ministry here said.

The attack on the MV Jag Arnav took place at about 10.30 a.m. Tuesday when the ship was 60 nautical miles east of Aden.

"The alarm raised by the merchant ship was monitored by an Indian naval ship patrolling in the vicinity," a defence ministry statement said.

An armed helicopter with marine commandos was launched from the naval ship to intervene and prevent the pirates from boarding and hijacking the merchant vessel.

"This timely and successful intervention led to the pirates aborting their attempt. The naval ship thereafter closed in on the Indian merchant ship to escort her to safety," the statement added.

Commenting on the rescue mission, Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said: "Piracy is a crime which all men of war are required to combat at all times.

"Indian Naval Ships operating in piracy infected areas are always in a high state of alert and have the capability to intervene by air or ship borne weapons. Their mandate is to ensure that the safety of our sovereign assets is maintained," Mehta added.

The Jag Arnav, a 38,265 tonne-bulk carrier is owned by the Great Eastern Shipping Co Ltd. The ship had transited the Suez Canal a few days ago and was eastward bound in the Gulf of Aden when she came under attack from the pirates.

The Indian Navy has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden since Oct 23 as a sizeable portion of India's trade flows through the waterway and there has been a quantum increase in the number of piracy attacks in the region over the last few months.

"The patrols are carried out in coordination with the ministry of shipping and are intended to protect Indian merchant vessels from being attacked by pirates and also to instil confidence in our large seafaring community," the defence ministry statement said.

The Indian Navy has for long been keen on playing a bigger role in the region under the aegis of the UN as this would enhance its credentials.

The navy is also keen to provide a helping hand to the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) by responding to urgent humanitarian needs in Somalia.

In July, the WFP appealed to global naval powers to help protect ships carrying life-saving assistance from pirate attacks, saying that as many as two million Somalis could go hungry without this essential help.

Somalia's coastline has been identified by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) as the area with the highest risk of piracy in the world. For India, monitoring the waters off Africa's east coast forms an essential part of securing its energy supplies.

Internal probe on over terror links: General Kapoor

Fayaz Bukhari, Nitin Gokhale

Tuesday, November 11, 2008 (New Delhi)

The Army's reputation has been dented after the arrest of a serving officer in connection with the Malegaon blast.

India's most secular and professional institution is trying to ensure the embarrassment is never repeated.

For the first time today, the Army chief admitted to conducting internal checks on his men. NDTV has also learnt that the officers who worked closely with Lt Col Purohit are being questioned.

Army sources have told that all 45 officers, who came in contact with Purohit have been internally questioned for any further leads on Purohit or the organizations he may have been linked to.

These checks do not mean any of them are under suspicion. And even Purohit, the Army says, will not be treated as guilty till proven so.

"There are internal checks and steps are being taken that no such repetition takes place. It is yet to be proved. We have done checks, we're checking postings and profiles of Army people. We are also taking additional measures," said General Deepak Kapoor, Chief of Army Staff.

A full blown battle has now erupted between the Anti-Terrorism Squad of the Maharashtra Police and the Army.

However, it's clear that the image of India's most secular institution has taken a beating and the Army is hoping against hope that this is an isolated aberration.

Army chief assures: No more Malegaons

Press Trust Of India

GENERAL CONCERN: Kapoor said the Army would take 'appropriate disciplinary action' against Prasad.

Srinagar: Against the backdrop of arrest of Lt Col Srikant Prasad Purohit in connection with Malegaon blast, Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor said steps are being taken to prevent involvement of its officers in terror attacks.

Kapoor also assured against Purohit under Army laws once and in case the case against him is proved in a civilian court of law.

"There are a large number of steps we are taking to ensure that such repetition (of officers involved in blasts) does not take place", the Army chief said.

"Once anything gets proved as far as the officer (Lt Col Purohit) is concerned, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken as per the law of the army," Kapoor told a news channel in an interview at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir.

Assuring that the army already has internal checks, he said there were a large number of them (procedures) to look at profiles and postings.

In his first comments on alleged involvement of Purohit in Malegaon blasts, the Army chief described it might be an "aberration".

"It is yet to be proved. It may be an aberration. But we are taking steps in terms of checking profiles, looking at postings and how actions of each and every officer are determined," he added.

On the future corrective measures, he said there was "a set system" which already existe forces.

"But when such an activity occurs, certain additional measures are taken to overcome any problems," he added.

Malegaon blasts: Lt Col to undergo narco-analysis test

CNN-IBN

New Delhi: The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has taken one of the main accused in the Malegaon blasts case, Lieutanant Colonel Prasad Purohit to the Air Force Command hospital in Bangalore for a narco-analysis test.

Purohit will be put through 17 tests before being made to undergo the narco test under the influence of truth serum.

ATS sources have told CNN-IBN that he will also undergo brain-mapping, polygraph and psychological profiling.

A forensic laboratory team from Mumbai is in Bangalore and sources in the laboratory inform that military intelligence representatives will be also be present.

Purohit was arrested last week by the Maharashtra ATS. Investigations reveal that he played the role of fund-raiser for Abhinav Bharat, the Hindu organisation suspected to be behind the Malegaon motorcycle blasts.

It is unclear if he siphoned off money from the funds sanctioned for secret activities of the Military Intelligence, his previous posting. He is a close associate of arrested Major (Retd) Ramesh Upadhyay.

The ATS has submitted - before a Nashik court - details of cash transactions between Abhinav Bharat leaders who are suspected to have raised funds for the Malegaon blasts.

Over Rs 70,000 were seized from the Abinav Bharat's Ajay Rahilkar. In their submission, the ATS said Abhinav Bharat leader Rakesh Dhawade, arrested for the Malegaon blasts, is also wanted in connection with other blasts. He had a key role in a training camp in Singhahad.

Five accused - including Ajay Rahilkar - have been sent to judicial custody till November 17. The other four are Samir Kulkarni, Ramesh Upadhyay, Rakesh Dhawde and Jagdish Mahtre.

Arunachal never officially declared India's: China

Press Trust Of India

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CHINESE WHISPERS: China says it has never recognised the illegal 'McMahon Line'.

Beijing: China on Tuesday angrily rejected India's assertion that Arunachal Pradesh is its integral part, insisting that Beijing never recognised the "illegal" McMahon Line and that the status of the border state was "never officially demarcated".

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China deeply regretted External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's statement that Arunachal Pradesh was part of India.

"We deeply regret the Indian side's remarks, that take no regard of the historical facts," Qin said when asked to comment on Mukherjee's comments on Sunday in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh.

"China and India have never officially settled demarcation of borders, and China's stance on the eastern section of China-India borders is consistent and clear-cut," Qin said at a regular bi-weekly news briefing.

"The current Chinese government, as well as previous ones, has never recognised the illegal "McMahon Line," the official Xinhua news agency quoted Qin as saying.

"India knows this," Qin said, referring to the McMahon Line, the demarcation line drawn on map referred to the Simla Convention in 1914. Although China disputes its legal status, the McMahon Line is currently the effective boundary between China and India.

Mukherjee had also said that "China is often making claims on Arunachal Pradesh, but Arunachal Pradesh has a special place in our heart."

"People of Arunachal Pradesh regularly elect two representatives to the Lok Sabha and there is an elected state assembly carrying out the responsibility of administration like any of other 27 states. The question of parting company of Arunachal or any of its part does not arise," he had said.

As for the pending boundary issue between China and India, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said that China is willing to find a solution, which is "fair, reasonable and acceptable" to the two sides, through peaceful and friendly negotiation in the spirit of mutual understanding and adjustment.

Mukherjee's rejection of the Chinese claim on Arunachal Pradesh follows recent declaration of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a visit to the state that Arunachal was 'our land of rising sun'.

This is the second time within a week that Beijing has reacted sharply to Mukherjee's remarks on China.

On November 7, China had rejected an apparent 'China threat' remark made by him during a speech

India says China is illegally occupying 43,180 sq kms of Jammu and Kashmir including 5,180 sq km illegally ceded to Beijing by Islamabad under the Sino-Pakistan boundary agreement in 1963.

On the other hand, China accuses India of possessing some 90,000 sq km of Chinese territory, mostly in Arunachal Pradesh.

http://static.ibnlive.com/pix/common/zero.gif

Gorshkov's delivery to Indian Navy delayed till 2012

Press Trust of India

Tuesday, November 11, 2008 (Moscow)

Russia on Tuesday said the delivery of Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier to the Indian Navy would be delayed till 2012 as the vessel could be refitted only sometime in 2010.

It also said that since last year New Delhi has not made any payments although the extra work to the tune of $1.7 billion has been done by the shipyard.

The 44.5-thousand tonner Kiev class aircraft carrier was to be initially commissioned as INS Vikramaditya in August this year under the $1.5 billion deal signed in January 2004, which included the refit of the vessel and supply of 16 MiG-29K fighters.

According to an unnamed representative of Severodvinsk-based Sevmash shipyard, Gorshkov will be launched in early December, probably to coincide with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's maiden visit to India.

After launching it would be moored to the assembly wall for the completion of its refit.

"At this juncture, the completion of work in 2010 would be realistic. Two more years would be required to complete the vessel's sailing trials, including testing its aircraft in the severe conditions of Barents Sea," the shipyard 'representative' was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS.

Sea going and flying trials of the refitted aircraft carrier will be conducted by the Russian crew trained on the "Admiral Kuznetsov" aircraft carrier in svice with the Russian Navy.

"Keeping in view the volume of work over and above the contract, the shortage of funds has reached $1.7 billion mark. From 2007 the Indians have practically not allocated funds for the repair and refit of the vessel, forcing Sevmash to carry on the refit through attracting credits," it said quoting experts' opinion.

Earlier this year Defence Secretary Vijay Singh and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta had visited Severodvinsk-based Sevmash shipyard to take the stock of situation and the problems faced in the Gorshkov modernization including cost-escalation.

According to local media reports, Sevmash is asking for $1 billion extra, while India is reported to be ready to pay not more than $600 million.

The negotiations are still underway, diplomatic sources said without disclosing the amount India would be ready to pay over and above the original contract.

Britain may consider sending more troops to Afghanistan

Press Trust of India

Tuesday, November 11, 2008 (London)

In a change of strategy sought by US President-elect Barack Obama, Britain on Tuesday indicated that it would consider sending more troops to Afghanistan provided other coalition partners also shared the burden.

"Of course we're ready to consider what's necessary, but it must be part of a burden-sharing exercise," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told mediapersons at 10, Downing Street.

He said "Burden-sharing means that other countries have got to play their part. There are 41 countries that are part of the NATO coalition, and there ought to be a fair burden sharing across that coalition... both in terms of equipment and in terms of manpower in Afghanistan."

His comments came when reporters asked if Britain would comply with a request by Obama for more troops as part of a switch of focus from Iraq to Afghanistan, where Britain has over 8,000 troops already.

During his campaign, Obama indicated that he wanted to increase the US presence in Afghanistan while beginning a phased withdrawal from Iraq.

Britain is expected to scale down its involvement in Iraq next year. Obama succeeds US President George W Bush on January 20, 2009.

'There are no communal feelings in the army'

November 11, 2008 | 14:12 IST

Major General Afsir Karim, who retired from the Indian Army in 1989, now edits Akrosh, a strategic affairs magazine that analysis internal disturbances, conflicts and insurgencies in and around India.

These days Karim saab, known for his balance and straightforwardness, is a disturbed man.

Being pragmatic, the allegations by Mumbai's Anti-Terrorist Squad against serving army officer Lieutenant Colonel Srikanth Purohit in connection with the Malegaon blast case doesn't worry him as much as the politics over the issue of terrorism. In the first of a two-part interview he told rediff.com's Sheela Bhatt that India is passing through it worst time since Independence. The divide between Hindus and Muslims frightens him no end. He shared his views with sorrow in his voice.

Your army man Srikanth Purohit has beenarrested on grave charges of terrorism. What are your thoughts on his arrest?

Firstly, I feel very sad that a man in uniform should get involved in this. But, the environment in the country is such that I understand it. For the last many years, particularly since the Mumbai riots of 1993 and then the Gujarat violence and other incidents there has been a great divide. This divide got developed after the series of bomb blasts all over the country. It's possible that after the blasts some Hindus who were not involved started thinking why can't they do the same thing? After all, this game can be played by two.

Instead of riots which involved many more people and created a mess afterwards, they might have thought this is better method of doing it. You know now, after the investigation by the ATS that they were indulging in terrorist activities. It's a new kind of communal violence on both sides. The problem is that it is getting people at random. Innocent people are being killed on both sides. Therefore communal people are doing a great damage to the country. By carrying out these blasts they are widening the divide. There is a general atmosphere of chaos and confusion in Indian communities. I don't think there is any political leader capable of setting this problem right at the moment. Neither are they showing any interest in doing it except blaming each other.

Isn't the army's internal structure not alert to ensure detection of such communal elements?

You see, Purohit belonged to a peripheral group in the army. The intelligence core does different types of jobs than the armed forces, generally. There is no over-regimentation, there are no strict controls. They go out and meet anti-national elements to find out various things, they plant certain things. They are intelligence chaps. But, if a person comes into the army with a certain background -- I think Purohit came with it -- then it is easy for him to deceive people and do these things. The ATS claims that he carried out lectures and training camps. I think he started feeling that he is on the right path because he must have thought that why should Muslims kill others and why should they not be killed? But, as an army person he was bound by his oath. He should have protected the country and remained disciplined by not joining any associations.

If the ATS allegations are correct then he has betrayed the army. He has betrayed the country. Therefore he should be investigated properly and he should get stringent punishment.

But these roots are not deep in the Indian Army. These sentiments are planted and they are shallow.

It will be picked up and thrown out. I don't think it will not have any long-term impact on the army except that we feel a little embarrassed that somebody in uniform should be involved in such a thing.

Can you tell us more about how secular values are inculcated in army men?

See, the army has two-three major parts. One is the fighting element of the army which is highly regimented and disciplined. There are other core groups which are not as disciplined.

They are not controlled that much. So, you do find talk of corruption coming out from those places. The army is a very cohesive group. I am not talking this as a part of drawing room conversation. I am talking about war. I am talking about the situation at the borders. I am talking of LoC incidents of which I was a part of for very long time. I never ever felt that I am a Muslim or somebody is a Hindu or a Sikh. It was always a question of you being in the Indian Army, your regiment and your country. And whoever you are fighting against whether it is Pakistani or Chinese or insurgents it's your enemy. Generally, army men are like this. Although, army men are religious there never have been communal elements in the army.

They are never encouraged. The whole system and ethos is such that you absorb yourself into one community named the Indian Army. Whether, you privately follow Hinduism or Sikhism that doesn't matter in the army. As an example, in the J&K military you have got Muslims. When I was Commanding Officer in J&K there was this battalion under me. The CO of the battalion was a Gujarati Brahmin. His name was Shashikant. Once during Ramzan, I was touring that area and I sent the message that I would have lunch with him. When I reached there I saw no sign of food not even water. I got very annoyed and I called up the CO.

I told him, "What kind of an officer are you? I head your unit and I sent you a message, too."

His answer was, "Sir, I am sorry. Ramzan is on. None of us eat in the open or anywhere on campus because our troops are fasting." Those kinds of sentiments prevail in the army.

On the other hand the troops I commanded in the 1971-72 war period were Sikhs, Dogras Gujjars and Rajputs. Of course, we went to war together and there was never any kind of communal feeling. In fact, the troops' religion was part of the CO's life. No temple or Gurudwara function would start without my initiating it. That's the atmosphere in army. Your namaz and bhaktis and prayers are your own personal business. In the unit you follow the customs of the community, which is serving the army. COs are head in all sense of things. Under me a lots of Gujjars worshipped Krishna. During Janmashtami the custom is COs goes to the temple and Subedar Major, who is the senior most junior commissioned officer, brings a cucumber and a part of it is cut and a baby Krishna comes out and is placed on swings and then only ceremony starts. The CO happens to be a Muslim is not the issue in the army's traditions. I have done it so many times. Same is the story of Sikh soldiers. Gurudwara ceremonies take place at midnight. There is no personal religion as far as the army is concerned. The traditions related to it are dependent on the unit and its people you are commanding. The officers of the Gurkhas and Garhwal regiments follow its customs irrespective of their preferences.

There is no communalism in the army. In my 37-38 years of service, I came across just one or two odd individuals who had a communal mindset. Remember the army regiments are not based on religion. These are based on ethnic groups which were recruitable. In the army you are known by the regiments. Who are you? I will say I am Kumaon. That's the ethos that prevails in army, even now.

Many people have commented adversely against temples in army cantonments.

I'll explain, again. The army supports religion but not communal sentiments.

We, in the army have common rooms where all communities worship. You find the Gita, Quran and Guru Granth Sahib, too. In the army we don't have problems about this. There is no untouchability and no reservations about another man's religion. We are organised, secular and democratic with discipline. The sweepers in the army have same rights to worship and other things like the COs. The army doesn't believe that secular means you have no religion. Secular means you follow your own religion, it's your own affair. In the army we don't allow communalism because we are secular. This is functioning well.

To be concluded on Wednesday

India, China in war of words over Arunachal Pradesh


BS Reporter / New Delhi November 12, 2008, 0:33 IST


India and China were caught in a spat over Arunachal Pradesh, with China repeating previous assertions that the issue of the border between the two countries was still open.

On Sunday, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee had said at Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh that the state was an integral part of India, having participated in Indian elections.

Today, spokesman for China Qin Gang was quoted as saying in Beijing that the Chinese did not recognise the Macmohan Line, used by the British to divide India and China. Negotiations on the border had been going on for several years between the two countries to demarcate the border. Under the circumstances, it was inaccurate to describe Arunachal as a part of India, the spokesman said.

Mukherjee's Sunday statement followed an unambiguous speech by him at the National Defence College (NDC) where he told the military officers that the rise of China was both a challenge and a priority. "There are also new sets of challenges which China poses, such as the strategic challenge as China develops its capabilities in outer space...," he said.

Fall In Line

12 Nov 2008, 0001 hrs IST

The arrest of a serving army officer in connection with the Malegaon blasts raises disturbing questions. Maharashtra's anti-terror squad (ATS) has accused Lt Col Shrikant Prasad Purohit, who works with Military Intelligence, of masterminding the Malegaon blasts. Six people were killed and 90 injured when a bomb blew up outside a mosque in Malegaon on September 29. Defence minister A K Antony has promised that the government would get to the root of the whole thing. It should, and fast.

According to the ATS, Purohit has been clandestinely working with terror networks, organising funds, ammunition and training for sangh parivar activists to carry out bomb blasts. Purohit has been linked to Himanshu Phanse, a Bajrang Dal activist who died while assembling a bomb in Nanded in 2006. He has also been accused of meeting political leaders like Pravin Togadia of the VHP. Clearly, Purohit ignored defence rules that prohibit serving personnel from engaging in political work.

It is disturbing that the army appears to have been ignorant of his overt activism. Equally worrisome is the presence of many retired army personnel among Purohit's associates in the terror network. The ATS has linked the Malegaon terror trail to two organisations, Abhinav Bharat in Pune and Bhonsala Military School in Nagpur. Both these organisations have retired army personnel at their helm, one of them now under arrest.

The Indian Army is one institution that has the reputation of being scrupulously secular in its conduct. It is considered one of the most representative public organisations and has always stayed clear of politics. Unlike in our neighbourhood, the armed forces in India have never departed from their designated responsibility of protecting the borders. Few serving men have been implicated in terrorist activities. Purohit threatens to disfigure this illustrious record.

In Purohit's case there was a clear record of political activism setting aside defence service rules, which should have caused him to show up on the army's radar much earlier. It's imperative to reinforce institutional checks to ensure that the services are insulated from the pulls and pressures of politics. The political establishment should also wake up to the perils of influencing serving army personnel to further their cause.

In 2005, Purohit gave ATS officials tips on intel gathering

Then posted with military intelligence, Lt Col addressed seminar with Raikar

Somendra Sharma. Mumbai

The Malegaon blast probe isn't the first time that officials of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) are interacting with Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit and Lt Col (retd) Shailesh Raikar.
In 2005, Purohit and Raikar were invited by the ATS as chief guests to speak in a seminar on how to gather intelligence on radical groups, according to sources in the ATS. Both Purohit and Raikar were posted with the military intelligence then.
"In this day-long seminar, Purohit and Raikar, who were the chief guests for the function, explained the nuances of conducting combing operations and gathering intelligence inputs regarding radical groups," an ATS official told DNA.
Raikar, who is now the administrator of the Bhonsala Military School in Nashik, was picked up by the ATS for questioning in connection with the September 29 Malegaon blast on November 1 but was let off later.
"It was shocking for us to know that Purohit, who once explained to us in minute detail how to tackle the radical groups, was himself arrested for his alleged links with a radical group involved in bomb blasts," said an ATS official who attended the seminar.
Another ATS official said the agency had shared information with the military intelligence after a huge cache of arms was seized in Aurangabad in May 2006. "Purohit was part of the Army team which was assisting ATS in the arms haul case for at least four days," the official said.
The ATS had seized 43 kg of RDX, 16 AK-47 assault rifles, 3,200 rounds of ammunition and 50 hand grenades on the Nasik-Aurangabad highway; 17 persons were arrested.
The ATS suspects that Purohit, during his stint with military intelligence, kept in touch with officials of other intelligence agencies to keep a tab on the progress of the Malegaon blast case. ATS suspects him of leaking valuable information to those who were allegedly involved in the September 29 blast.
Investigators also suspect that he attended conspiracy meetings and provided arms training to those involved in the Malegaon blast.
"He was in touch with retired major Ramesh Upadhyay, who, in turn, was in touch with Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Sameer Kulkarni," said an ATS official.
The 36-year-old Army officer was first posted in Assam in 1994, the ATS officials said. He followed this with stints in Manipur, Nagaland, Rajasthan, Pune, Jammu and Kashmir, Deolali in Nasik (military intelligence) and Pachmari in Madhya Pradesh (army training college)

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